April 03, 2012, 8:00 AM — Imagine you're the CIO chairing a meeting about how to get the best out of your IT infrastructure. One of your smart staffers suggests integrating advanced, automated monitoring and management software that can instantly react to changing conditions in network capacity, server activity, storage availability, and more.
Sounds intriguing. So, you establish a working group to evaluate the plusses and minuses of the software. When the report is delivered in a subsequent meeting, you like almost everything you hear.
One of the details revealed in the report is that if the new software were to fail, your IT operations would stop as well. That can't happen, of course, so you kill the project.
Now imagine you're the chief operating officer and your CIO explains to you the significant advantages of adding analytics to your business operations. Operational business intelligence (OBI) will let you refine business processes, improve inventory turnover, raise worker productivity, and much, much more. OBI's promise is so compelling you almost overlook it when the CIO mentions that if the new software fails, operations will grind to halt, too.
Claudia Imhoff, president of Intelligent Solutions, and a widely respected consultant, author, and commentator in the BI field, said recently (See PDF), that some companies still face the problem of poorly designed OBI software that gets in the way of business operations. According to Imhoff, some enterprises design their OBI environment such that the analytics becomes an essential part of the process and, if unavailable, stops the process dead in its tracks.
I do not believe that OBI applications need to be designed in such a way that they increase the MTBF of an operational process. I do not believe they have to be. Just as with the best IT infrastructure monitoring and management software, OBI can be deployed without having an operational impact. At worst, OBI apps should be neutral to system reliability. At best, they will predict and prepare you for potential operational downtime.
Of course, that requires detailed expertise in designing and deploying OBI applications that won't break ongoing operations. Not all enterprise IT teams have those skills. Yes, they may be able to create wonderful reports from the EDW, but that BI skill does not carry over to operations.